I love to garden, and where I’m from, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, I learned all about gardening from my grandma. I would watch her, on hands and knees, digging in the soil that crumbled between her fingers. The frigid days of winter had released their grip, the blanket of snow and muddied ice all but gone. Longer, warmer, sunlit days were doing their part to soften the land. The determined crocuses had already pushed their way through weeks earlier, soft, velvet purple blooms, to impatient to wait for the snow to be gone. Grandma taught me when to plant what. She explained what needed full sunshine to thrive, and what preferred to peek out from a shady corner. When the time was just right, she’d have a load of compost delivered and together we would work it into the waking soil, while she reminded me how much better our garden would grow, if we fed it well.
On Roatan, Honduras, a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea, it’s always summer. At least compared to what I was used to. There is no anxiously waiting for the snow to melt away, no crocuses putting on a show in early spring.
The first year, I marvelled at the beauty of plants, trees and flowers growing in the jungle, and lining the paths to the beach, to the road, to my Roatan home. These were species I had previously only seen in greenhouses or cut-stems of bird-of-paradise, and orchids at the flower shops that I would purchase as a special gift. I had never seen a cashew tree before, or mango, or bananas hanging from a banana palm, hibiscus that blooms all year round, or experienced the heavenly fragrance of the guava fruit.
Year two, I had to try my hand at gardening. I quickly learned to only work outside when the sun hasn’t risen to high yet, or just before it goes down. I learned to cover up, with light breathable clothing (or spend all my time swatting bugs.) And the most amazing thing I learned was if you snip a branch, or stem from—just about any plant that is native to here—stick it in the ground—it will grow!
Year three, I’ve started a composting program in my neighbourhood. As my grandma said, “Feed the soil, and watch the garden grow.” I add fallen leaves between each layer, I turn it, I water it daily, and I can’t believe how quickly a batch is ready. The scent of the dark soft compost is sweet, and citrusy, it crumbles between my fingers as I turn it in a new garden bed, or top up a garden I created last year. I do have a problem though, the pineapple tops, won’t break down as quickly as all the other fruit and vegetable scraps do.
…I know, I’ll just push them in the ground and grow pineapples! I bet it will work as well as planting sticks on Roatan does—my Island Garden Paradise.
This posting can also be read at Honduras Weekly
“As always, thoroughly enjoyable… thanks Genny, you give wonderful balance and a breath of fresh air to Honduras Weekly. So much of our news is about poverty, Zelaya, aid, etc. After awhile it all weighs down on you a bit, and so it’s nice to be lifted up with your stories. You’re in… Marco”
“Keep writing, you have no idea how much we enjoy it – Regards Marlene”